The Mediterranean Secret to Phenomenal Vegetables

Are your veggies turning out just “blah” and bland? You need to master the Mediterranean secret! The Mediterranean secret to phenomenal vegetables is a combination of using the ingredients garlic, olive oil, onions, and fried tomatoes with the methods of either sautéing or roasting.

Written by Diana Bauman, Contributing Writer

Growing up, my family ate a lot of vegetables.  It comes as no surprise being that my mother is from Sevilla, Spain where vegetables are a staple of the Mediterranean diet.

When I was younger I never understood why so many of my friends complained about eating their vegetables.

“They’re gross”, some would say.  Others, “they have no flavor!”

I remember asking my mami why so many people disliked colorful, seasonal vegetables at their peak of freshness.  I vividly remember her telling me, “It’s because they boil their vegetables and just add butter.”

Now, I’m not here to say that some veggies don’t taste wonderful steamed or boiled topped with a pat of butter, however, some vegetables need something extra to take them from blah to phenomenal.

What’s the secret?

The Mediterranean secret to phenomenal vegetables is a combination of using the ingredients garlic, olive oil, onions, and fried tomatoes with the methods of either sauteing or roasting.

You’ll find that once you start sauteing and roasting your vegetables specifically in garlic and olive oil, you’ll never turn back.

(For those that follow a Weston Price type diet and are concerned about the smoke point of extra virgin olive oil, check out my post on how to cook with olive oil the right way.)

Sauteing Vegetables in Garlic and Olive Oil Sprinkled with Sea Salt


This method will make any vegetable absolutely scrumptious that both adults and children will love.  The best part about it is that it is so simple.

All you do is gradually heat up some olive oil in a cast iron skillet or pan.  Add your vegetable of choice and 2-3 cloves of pressed or minced garlic.  Top with sea salt and serve.

My favorite vegetables to cook in this manner are…

  • asparagus
  • broccoli (my kids absolute favorite!)
  • cauliflower
  • swiss chard
  • kale
  • spinach
  • green beans
  • okra
  • fried sweet peppers (made without garlic and I think the best side dish in the entire world!)
  • eggplant
  • squash (zucchini and yellow)
tip* if you’re cooking a low acid vegetable such as asparagus or any of your greens add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a tablespoon of vinegar to brighten and freshen it up.

Sauteing vegetables in olive oil, onion, and fried tomatoes.


Talk about sensational and easy to boot.  Sauteing vegetables with onions and fried tomatoes is a method most households in Spain use.

It gives the vegetables an amazing bright flavor and cooked together with sauteed onions… an incredible depth everyone will enjoy.

All you need to do is gradually heat up some extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron skillet or pan.  Once the olive oil has come to heat add a diced onion and saute until just about transparent.  You can either add 4-6 fresh large sized (skinned and diced) tomatoes or two cans of diced tomatoes. Add your vegetable of choice and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the tomato sauce has condensed.

Absolutely scrumptious!

My favorite vegetables to cook in this manner are…

  • green beans
  • potatoes (first fried, then added to the sauce)
  • squash (zucchini and yellow)
  • eggplant
  • cauliflower
  • swiss chard

Roasting vegetables in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and sprinkled with sea salt


Roasting vegetables leads to phenomenal vegetables.

Especially the ones that are so notorious for being bleh!  You know, brussles sprouts and other root vegetables such as beets.  With roasting, you’ll never say bleh again.

In a large bowl toss your vegetable of choice, about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 cloves pressed or minced garlic, and sea salt.  Add all your ingredients to an ovenproof dish and bake at 350F – 375F for 40-60 minutes or until your vegetables are tender.

This is such an easy way to cook vegetables that leads to an incredible deep depth of flavor by the roasting alone.

My favorite vegetables to cook in this manner are…

Get Creative

Pimientos Asados

Once you get a feel for cooking your vegetables in these different methods you can start to get creative with how you cook them.  You can add a combination of vegetables, spices, cured meats, legumes, or even fried eggs.

One of my children’s favorite meal is a combo of olive oil, fried tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, and garbanzo beans all on a bed of white basmati rice.

The dinner literally takes about 20 minutes to make especially if you have your beans already cooked ahead of time.  A simple, scrumptious, and nourishing real food meal.

Have fun with it.  Also, now that the farmers market is open pretty much across the nation, pick up some vegetables you’ve never tried before and try one of the methods above.

You’ll soon find that you and your family will love their vegetables.

Does your family love their vegetables?  Please share your favorite methods of cooking phenomenal vegetables.

About Diana

As a first generation American, Diana shares her family’s traditional Spanish and Mexican recipes at her blog, My Humble Kitchen. As a mami and urban homesteader she also writes about her faith, family, organic gardening, raising backyard chickens and preserving the harvest.

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  1. Finally got to try this! It was so amazing! Thank you, I think you have changed the way I do vegetables! I’m excited!

  2. Heather says:

    I am trying to learn to love fruits and veggies and new ways of eating them. I plan on cooking fresh green beans from my garden tomorrow and am looking forward to trying this method. How long do you sautée the beans for?

  3. This is good advice – as the picky eater in the family I didn’t (and still won’t) eat foods that smell awful. The smell of garlic can help get those veggies past my nose (to a degree – still am not gonna eat peas, okra, olives, etc). Worth a try if your kids think a certain thing smells ‘funny’.

  4. Heather says:

    This is such a great post! I want a version I can laminate and hang on my fridge. Thank you!

  5. Thank you for this information. I am a nearly 40-year-old wife/mommy and my husband hates veggies. I am certainly going to try these methods and see if I can get a better response :) I also read/watched your information on preparing olive oil for cooking – great information! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I was raised by a single father and we always had meat, potatoes, and veggies but the veggies were always raw and the potatoes and meat always fried in lard so my cooking can always improve! Bless you :)

  6. Yes! I’ve been experimenting with sauteeing veggies a lot recently, and I had come to the conclusion that they’re best when I include onion, garlic, and salt. What a coincidence! :) I also like to add basil and oregano, and sometimes I do dill, celery seed, sage, or thyme. Sauteed broccoli is also very good with soy sauce added at the very end.

    Thanks also for your post on cooking with olive oil–that was helpful!

  7. This post should be printed off and kept prominently displayed on the refrigerator of pretty much everyone. Simple, inexpensive and flavorful. I’m saving it! Thanks.

  8. I have read that sauteing and roasting with EVOO causes oxidation of the oil because of the low flash point. What are your thoughts on this?

  9. i grew up with my mom sauteing a lot. your ideas are great and you suggested a couple i really want to try now! thanks so much!

  10. shannon says:

    Went ahead and tried green beans with onion and fried tomatoes and tonight and it was very yummy; my husband even went back for seconds for veggies!

  11. My kids love for me to take frozen green beans, cook them in butter with a little garlic salt. They are crunchy and nummy!

  12. Yum! We saute or roast our veggies in olive oil, garlic, and onions nearly every night, and it never seems to get old. So tasty!

  13. Shelley Belcourt says:

    Wonderful post. I just had beans cooked like this for lunch yesterday.

    One of my children’s fave ways to eat vege is sautéed in coconut milk. It’s very sweet and only needs minimal cooking.

    Thanks for your post.

  14. Sara B. says:

    Have you considered adding a “print-friendly” button? Because I really need to print this one for my recipe book! YUM

    • I have totally thought about it. I’m just starting a re-design process for the entire site (so fun!), so that’s one of the things that I’d like to add while we’re tweaking everything. Thanks for the suggestion!

      And what I’ve always done with blog recipes that can’t be easily printed is to copy and paste the text (and pictures, only if you want them) into a plain Word document, then print that.

  15. So, should I not sweat the loss of nutritional value from cooking (heating) the vegetables? Or are cooked veggies (vs. raw) just preferable to no vegetables at all. Great post. Can’t wait to try some of these.

    • I think it’s a balance. No, we shouldn’t sweat the nutritional loss from cooking (and remember, some nutrients actually increase in content or availability with cooking, even though some others are lost). But we should make sure that we are also eating lots of fresh, raw veggies, in salads, cut up in slices, blended in smoothies, or however you like them. I know that some people are proponents of ONLY raw veggies (and only raw food at all, in some cases), but I’m not one of those people.

      In all things, moderation. So we eat some veggies cooked (especially ones like spinach, cruciferous veggies, etc. that benefit more from the cooking, and especially in the winter when tougher root veggies are what’s local and seasonal), and we eat some veggies raw (especially in spring and summer, when we’re craving cold foods and when they’re plentiful in the garden and market). That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. :)

  16. Mrs. Team S says:

    Does anyone know if you can sauté frozen vegetables? How long would you sauté something like green beans?

    • I saute frozen veggies all the time, as that’s the primary way we put up veggies for out-of-season use.

      The most important thing is to defrost and drain them first, otherwise you wind up steaming them instead of sauteing them.

      When I’m in a hurry, I don’t defrost them, just toss them into a really hot skillet with no oil. Once they’ve defrosted and the steam has evaporated, I turn down the heat & add the oil and other seasonings. It’s not quite the same, but it’s not like it’s an unpleasant texture either.

      • I do saute frozen vegetables and they turn out just fine. Usually broccoli and green beans. I just heat up the oil a little bit and add the vegetable. It will sweat and release water which I allow to evaporate before adding a bit more oil and the garlic. Busy moms have to do what they have to do ;)

  17. We use all of these regularly. YUM. The only other method we use is likely a Southern thing: bacon grease. Almost any green veggie sauteed in bacon grease is a down-home favorite.

    • Oh goodness, Kristen, bacon grease is our weakness. We don’t usually eat pork, but just a few times a year I break down and buy a bit of bacon from a clean source. I save every last little drop of that amazing bacon grease and use it to fry up all sorts of goodness, including vegetables. My husband loves how it tastes, but it says that it’s a horrible tease, to walk into the kitchen smelling bacon, and then be served green beans. :)

  18. Jennifer says:

    We roast everything!!! My husband grew up hating squash because of the way it was prepared at home. I make pasta primavera with roasted squash and various other veggies and he loves it! We have a soon to be 2 year old that thinks that veggies are the greatest and I am sure it is a testament to the fact that I NEVER boil them. Even other people’s kids will eat at our house when they won’t try at home. Gotta love the power of olive oil and garlic!!!

  19. YUM! This looks like a delicious way to prepare veggies! Can’t wait to try it.

  20. We do our veggies roasted in with olive oil and sea salt, too! My husband loves them this way, and will even request seconds of broccoli, which is not his favorite veggie.

  21. This is how we prepare our veggies too – and my kids gobble them up! A few other things we do:

    With green beans, I’ll often add a few tablespoons of homemade chicken broth and/or white wine. Adds a slightly different (and yummy) flavor.

    In the summer if we are grilling, I’ll throw the veggies on the grill with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic. YUM!

  22. Yummy, Yummy! I can’t wait to try this with my kids. I have done some sauteing with garlic and onions but have not tried it with everything as you shared here. Also the fried tomatoes sound really good too.

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I just decided yesterday to make a concerted effort to eat lots more veggies but I didn’t have any really good techniques to make them super yum. I just tried your first technique using some yellow squash – yes, for breakfast :) It was wonderfully delicious. PS I just subscribed to your blog, Diana.

  24. shannon says:

    Wow, the pics alone look fabulous. Thanks for sharing. I make many casseroles so we get in lots of veggies that way but I still usually also serve a veggie on the side. If the casserole is complicated or takes a lot of time, I’m quite guilty of just opening a frozen bag of veggies, heating and adding butter, salt and pepper. We’re not picky so we eat it but these ways look simple too but much more delish. Thanks!

  25. Thank you for the useful tips! Me and my son love our veggies! My husband grew up with broccoli and green beans as the only vegetables served, so he is still learning how to love them. I couldn’t agree more that garlic and oil is one of the best ways to eat vegetables. My husband insisted that he hated spinach, but I noticed he would eat cooked spinach in a casserole type dish. I finally took a leap and served him spinach sautéd in oil and garlic and now he asks for it every week. I can’t wait to try the onions and fried tomatoes, especially when our squash starts coming in later this summer.


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